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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kulikov Resigned to Troop Pullout As Rebel Fighters Cheer Departure

GROZNY -- A train loaded with Russian military equipment pulled out of Chechnya on Saturday as Russia's last troops in the region prepared to leave.


Chechen fighters cheered as the train chugged slowly out of the military base at Khankala and toward the Russian heartland.


"In 1994, Dzhokhar Dudayev said the Russians would ask us for a corridor so they could leave in safety, and now they are leaving," smiled Chechen fighter Ruslan, referring to the rebel leader killed in a Russian rocket attack in April this year.


A second, much longer train headed towards the Khankala base, ready to be loaded with troops and equipment.


Russia agreed last week to pull its remaining troops out of the region, ending its ill-fated intervention and paving the way for an agreement between the interim government in Grozny and the Kremlin. But Russian Interior Minister Anatoly Kulikov said on Saturday that many of the soldiers had nowhere to go.


The Russian soldiers leaving Chechnya will be rebased in the southern Russian town of Budyonnovsk, scene of a bloody Chechen guerrilla raid in 1995.


"We cannot just withdraw the troops and leave the people out in the open," Interior Minister Kulikov said on NTV Independent Television. "The president ... has instructed the government to take all measures to ensure that the troops are moved into well prepared, or at least relatively well prepared accommodation."


"We were against the pullout. But now that the decision has been made ... there can be no further discussion on the matter. All we can do after that is to discuss how best to implement the decision," he added.


Interfax quoted Kulikov as saying tough controls would be needed on the border between Russia and Chechnya to prevent the "export" of arms, drugs and criminal elements.